When U.S. embassy officials in Yemen left the Middle Eastern country recently, personnel were not able to follow proper protocols to protect sensitive information, according to State Department emails.
The unclassified emails were reviewed by Fox News. They show that there was uncertainty among personnel about the developments on the ground as things were unraveling, Fox is reporting.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Feb. 12, while appearing on Fox News, that the evacuation of the embassy in Yemen "wasn't hasty," but the emails demonstrate there was plenty of panic among officials in Washington.
The main concern was that the embassy's unclassified system, which includes emails and general daily operations, was still up and running when officials left the embassy in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen.
"We need to quickly think about the plan for destroying/sanitizing the OpenNet data that is still in Sana'a," a supervisor said an email. "I am a little worried it is still out there."
The supervisor was referring to the embassy's main communication link it maintains with state officials in Washington.
According to Fox News, the emails indicate that the system was not properly shut down. The embassy in Yemen was heavily guarded by U.S. Marines prior to the evacuation.
OpenNet was ordered to stay running on Feb. 8 by Ambassador Matthew Tueller in case the embassy was not evacuated and officials had to remain in Yemen for a longer period of time. The move was approved by Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy.
The email, which was sent three days later, shows the fallout from that decision, saying the data needed to be destroyed "as soon as possible."
The Obama administration is already facing scrutiny over the pullout there as some question the status of the counterterrorism program in the war-torn country, which is also where one of the most dangerous al-Qaida-linked terrorist groups is located.
Fox News says that this revelation raises more questions.
The data left on the system in Yemen was reportedly removed remotely three days after the evacuation. Information on the servers included financial, passport, visa, and other personal information.
The State Department announced the closure
of the U.S. embassy in Yemen on Feb. 10.
Local employees reported
that documents, telecommunications equipment, and other relevant materials were destroyed by embassy personnel before the evacuation.
The Marines guarding the embassy
were allegedly forced to render their firearms inoperable before leaving the country, which has also raised questions about the nature of the evacuation.
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